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May 1, 2021
Vol. 78
No. 8

Relevant Read / A Playbook on What Works

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    Professional Learning
    Relevant Read / A Playbook on What Works
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      The Instructional Playbook: The Missing Link for Translating Research into Practice by Jim Knight, Ann Hoffman, Michelle Harris, & Sharon Thomas (ASCD, 2020)
      Some of history's most influential figures have carried notebooks with them—from authors like Ernest Hemingway and Walt Whitman to civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr. In a 2017 Forbes article, leadership expert Kevin Cruse calls notebooks "the indispensable tool of all great thinkers."
      Jotting down key observations and strategies also happens to be a practice Jim Knight believes can improve student learning. Enter the instructional playbook: The concept, first introduced in Knight's book The Impact Cycle (Corwin, 2017), is simple. By creating a "playbook"—a collection of curated, high-impact teaching strategies—instructional coaches will become deeply familiar with these strategies, the evidence behind them, and the steps needed to implement them. They can then draw on this tool throughout the Impact Cycle—a model coaches can use with teachers to help them meet student learning goals.
      An instructional playbook is deceptively simple, capturing only the essential information needed to assist a coach's work in the field:
      1. Table of contents (itemizing the high-impact teaching strategies contained in the playbook)
      2. One-pagers (for each teaching strategy, describing it, summarizing the research supporting it, and explaining how it will be taught and then used by students in the class)
      3. Checklists (to describe the steps for teachers to skillfully replicate each strategy).
      This coaching tool gives teeth to the book reading and professional learning that teachers engage in, the authors explain, by providing them with the practical information they need to effectively implement the ideas they just learned about. Playbooks can also build a much-needed common language around high-yield teaching strategies in a school (or even district).
      According to Knight and his coauthors, instructional playbooks might just be the secret to keeping coaches—and teachers—in the game.

      Sarah McKibben is the director of digital and editorial content for ASCD.

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